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Reminiscence is a sci-fi film noir, which means Wolverine gets beat up a lot
Reminiscence, the first feature film from Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy, is comprised of a lot of different genres. There’s a sci-fi element, as the plot revolves around a technology that can let people review and relive memories in total clarity. There’s a disaster element because it’s set in a flooded, post-climate disaster Miami. And there’s a romance element. The thing that ties all that together, though, is a mystery that’s a remarkably straightforward film noir plot, as Hugh Jackman's Nick Bannister dives into the Gulf Coast’s seedy criminal underworld to try to discover whether his missing love interest, Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), is a victim or a femme fatal.
One of the tropes of the noir genre is that, in many cases, the protagonist is in way over their head and frequently gets the s*** kicked out of them. Nick Bannister is no Wolverine.
“He’s an incredibly adept fighter and is strong and passionate, but he doesn’t have, like, an adamantium skeleton,” writer/director Joy tells SYFY WIRE ahead of the film’s Aug. 20 premiere. “He can’t just whip out the claws. Sometimes he falters, sometimes he trips, sometimes he gets beat up.”
“It was fun,” Jackman says of playing a hero who isn’t quite as indestructible as the iconic X-Men character. “The challenge to Wolverine is being sort of invincible. How do you keep audiences engaged and worried for you? But here in the real world, [Nick] even starts the movie with a limp. He’s tough, he’s got a sort of an impenetrable exterior, kind of like Wolverine, and there’s pain inside, but he’s very human and I really enjoyed that. He’s out of his depth. His obsession and his love takes him to places where he shouldn’t be.”
Nick starts Reminiscence as a veteran eking out a living operating a machine that lets people relive old, happier memories. One day, Mae walks into his life and changes everything as they begin a romance. Then, she disappears, and Nick needs to walk down some dark, dangerous paths — both real and remembered — to discover where she went and who she really was.
“I was fascinated by Vertigo,” Joy says. “The way in which you can take a seemingly likable narrator and keep digging into his psyche and viewpoint until you realize the flaws in his own vision.”
“When I saw the script I was like ‘This is a classic film noir! Nobody does this anymore,” says Daniel Wu, who plays Saint Joe, a powerful criminal figure who Nick encounters. Wu is no stranger to the genre, having appeared in several Hong Kong-style film noirs in the past 20 years. “And, on top of that, [Lisa Joy] layered the thriller aspect, the sci-fi aspect, the love story, all this other stuff into it.”
Strip away the genre trappings and Jackman’s character isn’t all that dissimilar from a hardscrabble detective of old — think Humphrey Bogart’s Philip Marlowe or Jack Nickolson’s "Jake" Gittes from Chinatown, a neo-noir. Jackman saw that connection when he first started reading the script — but then he quickly saw how Joy was playing with the genre.
“For the first 10 pages of the script I was like ‘Oh, I see. This is Bogart, that kind of character.' The language felt noir-ish,” he recalls. “Then, 15 pages in, I could feel Lisa Joy playing with that genre. Bending it — and then she breaks it and goes off in different areas and comes back and forth.
"It holds on to the spine of a noir film, even though in many parts of the film it feels very different,” Jackman continues. “It has a very poetic, bittersweet feeling at the end. I don’t want to give anything away, but it resonates. What Lisa can do with story and genre, I think very few people can.”
Reminiscence premieres in theaters and on HBO Max on Aug. 20.